Programme Director, WWF-India
With a coastline of over 8000 km, two major island chains, and an Exclusive Economic Zone of over 2.20 million square kilometer, India is host to a wide array of marine and coastal ecosystems, ranging from mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass, intertidal habitats, sandy and rocky beaches, estuaries and salt marshes, that hosts an astonishing variety of biodiversity. These ecosystems are also critical sources of livelihood and food security for over 30% of our nation’s population.
India has 936 species of marine algae, 2000 species of molluscs, 388 species of sea slugs, 38 species of lobsters and 120 species of hermit crabs. We have 15000 species of sponges and 627 species of hard corals. The oceans around us are home to a total of 2618 species of fish from coastal and marine ecosystems. The Lakshadweep Islands alone have recorded more than 603 species (Jones and Kumaran 1980) and 1000 species have been reported from Andaman & Nicobar Islands. A total of 55 species of commercial shrimps and prawns have been recorded in India, the east coast of India contributes to 24.5% and west coast contributes to 75.3% to the country’s production as wild caught.
Five species of sea turtles have been reported from Indian waters. Of these, leatherbacks have been recorded to travel over 4000 km to nest on Great Nicobar Islands. Additionally, India has one of the largest mass nesting beaches of Olive Ridleys in Odisha. Indian seas support over 25 different species of marine mammals; many of these are oceanic forms and are frequently stranded on shores. All marine mammal species are protected by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Currently, India contributes to 7.33% of global marine biodiversity, however, there is a potential for further exploration and taxonomic studies may reveal more new species.
India’s marine biodiversity is of great ecological value, however, indiscriminate exploitation of its resources has threatened several species to the point of extinction and inflicted irreversible habitat degradation. Threats such as seabed mining, overfishing, illegal fishing, unsustainable aquaculture, pollution etc. need to be urgently addressed.
We have been working across a range of issues such as fisheries management, Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, habitat degradation, illegal wildlife trade, unsustainable tourism and plastic pollution to ensure that India’s marine and coastal biodiversity is conserved and managed sustainably, contributing to enhanced ecosystem resilience and sustainable livelihoods.
Michael looks after marine related projects in Odisha and actively interacts with communities to sensitize them on wildlife conservation. He is also involved in conservation of marine turtles and dolphins and takes an avid interest in wildlife photography.
Sumer is a marine biologist who tackles issues related to the management of ghost gear and Marine Protected Areas. He is a dive professional and once worked with a dive school in the South Andaman Islands. Sumer is a passionate birder who also enjoys an occasional game of squash.
Sadhwi is a marine biologist with her interest focused on Marine conservation. She has the experience in working with Turtles, Coral reefs and Sharks. Her Scuba Diver certification along with her capacity for travelling has become a part of her being. On a holiday she loves to grab her cruiser bike and go for long rides.